Crown rejects evidence 'manipulation' claims in Paris synagogue bomber case

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prosecutors asked a Canadian court Tuesday to reject defense claims of "abusive manipulation" of evidence in seeking to extradite a Lebanese-Canadian national accused of bombing a Paris synagogue in 1980.

Crown attorney Claude LeFrancois said a defense motion to halt the extradition proceedings against Hassan Diab "should be dismissed."

Defense lawyer Donald Bayne last week said French authorities had presented evidence in the extradition hearing that was full of "contradictions, inaccuracy and omissions."

He alleged that this amounted to a "complete failure of due diligence at least or abusive manipulation at worst" and asked the court to halt the extradition proceeding.

LeFrancois said in court documents, "The abuse alleged represents a direct attack on the conduct of French prosecuting authorities," which he characterized in court as "sinister."

"There is no evidence that any of the 'misrepresentation,' if misrepresentations at all, were other than inadvertent," he said, adding that defense arguments to the contrary were "advanced irresponsibly in the absence of any offer of proof."

LeFrancois also said the defense had "overlooked the core of the evidence," wrongly viewing it in a "piecemeal, incomplete and inaccurate fashion."

He pointed to handwriting analysis that found a "high degree of probability" that Diab signed a Paris hotel slip under a false identity (Alexander Panadriyu), which was also used to purchase a motorcycle used in the bombing.

As well, he said, Diab resembles police sketches of the bomber, and two witnesses linked Diab to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) believed to be behind the attack.

"The court has already opined that the body of evidence 'supports the inference that the person who filled out this hotel registration card is in all likelihood the person who was responsible for planting the bomb and committing mass murder," LeFrancois said.

In court documents, he added: "The singular issue is whether (Mr. Diab) is the 'Alexander Panadriyu' allegedly responsible for the Paris bombing."

LeFrancois noted that other evidence characterized last week by the defense as contradictory was merely alternate theories of the crime. These are "hypothesis, not facts," he said in court.

Regardless, it is for a trial court to decide on the reliability or evidence and credibility of witnesses, not the extradition judge, he added.

Only five extradition requests have ever been quashed by Canadian judges in the past, he noted.

Diab, 56, was arrested in November 2008 at his home in an Ottawa suburb at the request of French authorities who want him extradited to face charges of murder, attempted murder and willful destruction of property.

He was released on strict bail conditions in 2009.

France alleges Diab was a member of a Palestinian extremist group believed to have planted a bomb in a motorcycle saddlebag outside the Copernic Street synagogue in the tony 16th arrondissement of Paris on October 3, 1980.

The explosion killed three Frenchmen and a young Israeli woman. Dozens were injured.

It was the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation of World War II.

Diab claims he is the victim of mistaken identity and insists that he was a student in Beirut at the time. In a statement last week, he said "I am innocent of the charges against me."

His extradition hearing is expected to up to six weeks.

© 2010 AFP

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